HOLIDAY TRENDSShoppers now expect special sales and deals to appear at any time of the year. Retailers should reevaluate what they can do for this new Cyber Everyday mindset. By Bart Defoor

The holiday shopping season, and the flurry of activity that comes with it, will soon be in full swing. Retailers know that their holiday sales will set the tone for the following year.

This has been the case since the dawn of mass retail and is the genesis of the industry. In recent history, retailers and media alike focus on two seminal shopping days: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as an indicator for the year.

Nowadays, shifting consumer buying behaviors, driven by online technology, have retailers pondering two big questions: “How much will online shopping impact Black Friday turnout in my store?” and, “Is Cyber Monday still relevant?”

Everyday Deals

Today, what were once disruptive market forces have now become the norm. Consumers have Internet speeds at home that rival their business connections, as well as easy to use, powerful tools for finding, comparing prices, buying and receiving millions of products. Moreover, thanks to the ease of finding deals online, customers have come to expect sales all of the time – in fact, year-round – for their holiday shopping needs. As such, single day watershed shopping events, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don’t hold the same weight they did even three or four years ago.

The notion of holiday shopping sales offering the best deals is also suspect. Take for example Amazon’s annual Prime Day, which occurs each year in July and has successfully created its own unique, recurring sales event and related media cycle. The ubiquity of everyday online shopping and competing deals offered at specific points-in-time has resulted in a loss of demand for and lesser need to focus all online sales promotions on one specific shopping day such as Cyber Monday.

With online deals beginning to show up days or weeks before the holidays, and extending well into mid-December, Cyber Monday seems to be transitioning more to a Cyber November, or even a Cyber Everyday mindset. For retailers hyping up their 2017 Cyber Monday deals - it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what you can be doing now for this new Cyber Everyday mindset.

Blame the Kids

Generational differences are causing major shifts in the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as well. According to a recent study by Natural Insight, a workforce management company, 88 percent of consumers ages 45-59 plan to shop in stores this year and 80 percent of consumers age 18-29 plan to make purchases in brick-and-mortar locations from November through December. However, the survey also revealed only 15 percent of shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday itself. Many feel that they can get the same deals that the store flyers advertise from the comfort of their own couch without having to brave the crowds and frenzy that can come with Black Friday sales floors.

Understanding the “Me Channel”

Even with store traffic in decline in recent years, eMarketer noted that foot traffic was down 12.3 percent in November and December 2016 compared to previous averages – there is hope for the brick-and-mortar store. Consumers are still going. The difference is that now, they are looking for an in-store shopping experience that offers them something unique from what they get online.

Retailers need to quickly grab the attention of these in-store customers with the convenient experience they desire, or run the risk of falling prey to showrooming. This is even more important during the holiday season when consumers are more prone to mission shopping with a planned list.

Another shift in the nature of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales is the actual products and services that consumers seek. Increasingly, shoppers are looking to buy experiences more than traditional gift items. Research from The Journal of Positive Psychology showed that “people enjoy greater well-being from life experiences and consider them to be a better use of money.”

Following this mindset, there is an expected surge in the purchase of subscription services (e.g., Birchbox or Lootcrate) and experiential giving (e.g., gifting a cooking class or a trip) projected for 2017’s holiday season. These experiential gifts are luring customers out of stores and onto the web, which is fostering the Cyber Everyday mentality of the modern day shopper, especially Millennials, who value experiences over goods.

Rolling with the Changes

History, and now, data, tell retailers that Black Friday is here to stay for the long haul even if it changes its form over time. The hyped phenomenon of Cyber Monday, on the other hand, may be losing momentum. The rise of e-commerce, generational differences, shifts in shopping behaviors and increases in experiential gift giving are all factors.

The holiday shopping season will always be a unique time for retailers, but the consumer mindset has shifted from single-day buying frenzies into a weeks-long journey of seasonal discounts both online and in store. Retailers who remain fluid, adaptive and frictionless will be able to survive and thrive by meeting consumers’ shopping demands and preferences.

Bart DeFoor is a principal consultant at North Highland with more than 18 years of consulting experience with the last 10 years concentrating on the retail industry. 

PRODUCT RECALL PREPARATIONSCompanies can prepare for product recalls by planning ahead and utilizing digital tools to reduce or prevent the negative impacts a recall can cause. By Peter Gillett

Thanks to the digital age, news can spread quicker than the speed of light, causing product recalls to stick around long after they’ve been settled. Take one of 2015’s biggest fads – hoverboards – for example. From one of the year’s most desired products to the most dangerous, with more than 500,000 units recalled due to catching fire. People are still wary of them.

Aside from technology, recalls can happen to any product at any time. From dolls with toxic lead paint to peanut butter contaminated with salmonella. And when recalls are poorly managed, it can severely damage a brand, its reputation and bottom line. While recalls aren’t always preventable, companies can prepare by planning ahead and ultimately reduce or prevent the negative impacts a recall can cause.

Modern Recall Best Practices

In order to navigate a product recall successfully in modern times, companies must modernize their approach to recall management. Follow these best practices to ensure your recall plan is up-to-date:

• Eliminate outdated processes

Using outdated spreadsheets and paper responses can result in miscommunication, slow processing time and added stress. Instead, use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to store and easily access accurate and up-to-date customer data. Product recalls can be easily managed on a dedicated recall response database and eliminate the need for complex, manually updated paper documents. These systems store all of your valuable customer information in a centralized location that can be accessed by internal key users who can update vital information when needed.

• Retailers should upgrade to automated and accurate reporting

In addition to the public, companies must also face government agencies when a recall occurs, requiring extreme accuracy. Recall authorities often request that companies dealing with a recall start to submit status reports bi-weekly or monthly. This process can be simplified with automated reporting which can include the numbers of:

• Consignees notified of the recall, as well as the date and method of notification. • Consignees that did and also did not respond.

• Products returned or corrected by each consignee contacted and the quality of products accounted for.

• Results of effectiveness checks that were made.This information is easily available with the help of a CRM database and can even estimate time frames for the completion of the recall.

• Step up your social media game.

When a product recall is announced, many consumers learn about it through social media. Whether the company has issued an official statement or not, consumers are made aware of the issue and often voice their concerns and anger. With only 140 characters, consumers can often spread the word quickly, and if a company isn’t prepared to address these consumers, more anger can arise. Make sure your communications plan is up-to-date and that whoever is in charge of social media is aware of the issue and has the resources to properly monitor and respond where necessary.

• Partner with an expert.

Having a trusted recall partner can make all the difference on how a recall is handled. Recall partners help companies determine responsibilities, assign roles and help handle operations, production, purchasing, customer service marketing and finance. They develop an online recall flowchart and message key customers, stakeholders and media with prepared templates.

Recall professionals will identify product locations and notify all affected parties, allowing companies and retailers to focus on their customers. Recall partners can also help with removing all the recalled products from the marketplace and with ensuring recalled products don’t re-enter the market and are properly disposed of. When a recall is wrapped up, your recall partner can help measure effectiveness, and advise where you can improve and how to best move forward.

• Conduct annual mock recalls.

On a quarterly basis, companies should perform a mock recall. To do this, simply choose a product for a mock recall, trace the product from its source and where it’s located. Verify communications systems during this process, from emails to addresses to telephone numbers. Document each mock recall and spot which aspects may have not been factored in and where a crisis strategy plan can be improved.

Plan for Success

Recalls are complex, and if there isn’t a proper plan to manage them, the process can become overwhelming, causing severe damage to a brand and its consumers. It’s important to remember that crisis communication strategies should be continually reviewed and updated as the digital world continues to expand. By ensuring you have digital channel experts in place, and use best practices, your company can defuse potential damaging situations and emerge as a stronger, well-rounded and experienced company ready for anything.

Peter Gillett is CEO of Marketpoint Recall, an international recall agency with locations around the world. It handles many languages across all time zones and has carried out national and international recalls for companies in many sectors.

Express Trade Capital Express Trade Capital prides itself on adapting to market changes and providing its customers with tailored solutions for more than 20 years. By Bianca Herron

In 1993, Peter Stern founded Express Trade Capital Inc. as a shipping and logistics company. Ten years ago, he saw an opportunity to expand Express Trade Capital’s services to include financial solutions such as letters of credit, factoring and purchase order financing.

The New York City-based company has since earned a reputation for helping its clients build and operate successful businesses. Managing Director Mark Bienstock attributes Express Trade Capital’s success to not only providing a one-stop shop for its more than 250 clients, but also tailoring solutions to their unique needs.

“The beauty of the operation is that a customer may come to us for a specific service, but then utilize another,” he says. “For instance, they may come in for letters of credit and then they’ll gravitate to purchase order funding, or shipping.”

FortegraVertical integration helps Fortegra exceed client expectations with tailored retail solutions. By Bianca Herron

Since its founding nearly 40 years ago in rural Georgia, Fortegra has grown significantly. With more than 500 employees, and additional offices in Michigan and California, the Jacksonville, Florida-based company is now the second-largest credit insurer in the United States, providing credit protection, warranty, and specialty underwriting products and services.

Although Fortegra boasts decades of industry experience, its wireless division is only a few years old. In 2013, Fortegra acquired a majority stake in Digital Leash LLC – which conducts business as ProtectCELL – to expand its warranty and service contract business in the mobile and wireless device space.

Today, Fortegra provides its carrier partners with valuable wireless solutions including handset protection, premium accessory coverage, and involuntary unemployment insurance.

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RETAIL DATALost or stolen credit card chips pose a new threat. Diligence and training is required for retailers to prevent and reduce liability under the new scam. By John D. Goldsmith

Due to massive credit card fraud, EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) was adopted first in Europe, throughout most of the remainder of the world, and most recently in the United States. EMV is now a global standard for the payment industry. Credit cards containing an EMV chip (chip card), embedded in a credit card under a gold or silver foil, are significantly more secure than a magnetic strip card, which contain only static payment information that can be copied or “skimmed” and put on another card.

In comparison, a chip card creates a unique transaction code each time the card is used, so if the code for a particular transaction is stolen it cannot be used for any other transaction. Since the EMV standard was adopted in the U.S., in-person physical credit card fraud has dropped, by some estimates, by more than 50 percent.

One significant risk of a chip card is if the EMV chip, which is glued into the card, falls out or is removed. The removed chip glued into another credit card can be used for unlimited transactions until canceled. The old credit card without the chip will still work with its magnetic strip, so the owner may not realize the chip has been removed and replaced with a dummy chip, instead assuming the chip technology is not working. Although the chips are glued securely in the card, the chip can be removed and replaced quickly or fall out on its own with frequent use.

Who is Liable?

Since the U.S. has not yet adopted the “Chip and PIN,” only requiring the card and a signature – and many U.S. physical credit card transactions are done outside the presence of the customer – there are multiple opportunities for the chip to be stolen. While the customer generally has no liability, the credit card issuer or the merchant will be liable depending on who has adopted the least EMV-compliant technology.

This is a change from the old rules, and is intended to move the payment industry into EMV technology to avoid liability exposure for fraud. The only exception is for automatic fuel dispensers, who now have until October 2020 before these new liability rules apply.

If a stolen chip is glued into another card and the card issuer has adopted “Chip and PIN” and the merchant has not, the merchant is liable. If the retailer has “Chip and PIN” technology and the card issuer does not, the card issuer is liable. In the U.S., to date, few card issuers or merchants have invested in the “Chip and PIN” technology. If neither the card issuer nor the retailer has adopted “Chip and PIN” and a stolen chip is used in another card, traditional comparative fault principles apply.

In such a situation, the merchant will argue the card issuer should have more securely embedded the chip in the credit card so it could not be so easily removed. The card issuer will argue the merchant has the primary responsibility because it should have noticed that the number and name on the credit card does not match the name and number on the credit card receipt. Although a dummy card may still be produced with a name to match the information from the stolen chip, this takes time and provides the customer more time to realize the chip was stolen.

Training to Reduce Risk

Retailers can reduce liability for this type of credit card fraud by regular training of point-of-sale personnel and “secret shoppers,” to make certain credit card receipts are compared with the credit card used in the transaction. As more fraudsters understand EMV technology, the removal of chips will increase, requiring more diligence by retailers and card issuers. Ultimately, following the global standard of “Chip and PIN” provides the best protection for retailers against chip, and most other, credit card frauds.

John D. Goldsmith is a shareholder at Trenam Law in Tampa, Fla., and leads the firm’s cybersecurity practice. 

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